Cultural norms are important to look at or considering when working with ELL students. It is a great way to understand a person’s language development and their understanding.
I of course grew up in a Spanish speaking household. I only spoke English when I went to school or when having to interact with others aside of my family. I often times thought I was the only one that had that experience. Even though I spoke English at school, I was still speaking Spanish with my Latino friends.
I felt as if many people did not really understand that especially teachers. In seventh grade I had a gym teacher that would listen to my friends and I talk in Spanish. He knew that I knew English and I spoke English with him but when he’d hear me speak in Spanish with my friends he would scold me and tell me to speak in English. He only said that because this is “America” and English is the language to speak. It was a frustrating experience.
To have somebody not understand as to why I spoke in a different language and what I was comfortable, was not amusing. My teacher knew that I knew both languages yet he was condescending. Of course this can apply to all teachers and not just ELL teachers. It felt limited to get restricted from what language I wanted to use. It felt like nobody quite understood why I liked using Spanish with some friends or certain people. Understanding language patterns and the cultural choices behind that is important.